Exclusive Interview: Andrew Jackson Jihad

Eoin and I just spent a week traveling the West Coast with our new man-lovers Andrew Jackson Jihad.  For the uninitiated, these two play kind of folky punk um.. I don’t know how to explain, but they are face-meltingly awesome and my favorite new band I discovered all year for the past ten years. Seriously, slap your girlfriend’s father in the face while he is sleeping, they are that good, make great guacamole, and didn’t mind us making a mess of their merch table.

We interviewed them on the last day of our treck, earning valuable insight on the profound significance of meat bees eating cute bunnies alive, getting bitten by crack-heads, pissing off Against Me! fans, the band’s history and plans, and how Scrappy Doo come’s into it. Click below the read it!

Eoin: All present state your names.
Sean: Sean Bonnette
Ben: Benjamen Gallaty
Avi: I guess we’ll just dive right in here
Sean: “In 1997, Sean, you were in a hip hop group called Tony Tony Tony.”
Avi: Tell us about your hip hop group Sean.
Sean: That was a lie.
Eoin: Damn!
Ben: There is a band called Tony Tony Tony, but everything else was a fabrication.
Eoin: Well what were you in before Andrew Jackson Jihad? I know about Malakie for Ben.
Ben: Well actually that was after, but I was in this punk rock band called The Sub-Standards and that was really fun. It was just really straight forward Fat Wreck Chords inspired punk rock.
Sean: I was in a lot of conceptual bands with my friend Lauren Laplant and sometimes with Jole Hazelton and Ryan Stevenson, we just made a lot of home recordings. One of them was called Rodan until we found out there was a band called Rodan from Kentucky. And one was called the John Denver Plane Explosion. That was a pretty good band name. And then I was also in a band called The Bruce Expansion Project where I sang, and it was indie rock. This band is the best yet.
Eoin: How did this one get started?
Sean: Well me and Ben met at work, we worked at the same coffee shop. At the time I was starting to play my own songs which later became AJJ songs. I got a show at the coffee shop that we worked at and I was really nervous so I invited a bunch of people to come play, and Ben and I had been hanging out and playing about the time Ben got his standup bass. We had a drummer but he later left the band…at our gracious request.
Ben: Unwillingly.
Sean: Yea.
Avi: So who write most of the songs?
Ben: Sean writes the songs.
Sean: But then Ben produces them, he gives them the ideas that makes them more special, different arrangements and stuff. Ben handles the arrangements and all that stuff.
Eoin: You guys also have a lot of your friends come in, like someone from Partners in 818 played mandolin?
Sean: Yea, Dylan played mandolin on our first tour ever and he is on our records a lot of the time.
Ben: There’s so many amazing musicians in Phoenix and we like to showcase their talents, and also make our records sound better. It’s really cool because we usually do just the basic tracks. Typically its live, we records the guitar and bass at the same time. For example Teague Cullen who is Foot Ox played a lot of the really cool auxiliary instrumentation on People. I wasn’t even there. Were you there?
Sean: Yea
Ben: He just kind of came in and did whatever he wanted. I mean, we were really open minded, we just let people do whatever they wanted to do with it and I think it all came out really well. We didn’t have any preconceived notions, we knew the instrumentation we wanted for each song but kind of just let people do whatever they want on it. I think it came well, I don’t know.
Avi: I’m kind of curious as to what goes into making the songs. Sean, I know you do some social (work) style stuff. Does your work influence the songs you write?
Sean: Yea it really does
Eoin: Want to tell the internet people what it is you do?
Sean: Yea, I work at a homeless shelter. I’ve been working in the social service industry for a long time. I started volunteering at a suicide hotline when I was 15, and I’ve been doing that going on 8 years. But now I mostly train people, grad students and interns, all the shorties. It’s peer-based, for teenagers. So that was my entry into social work, and after a while it became apparent that I could do those kinds of jobs for money, so I totally did. I worked for Tumbleweed Center For Youth Development for a year doing youth outreach to homeless youth. As well as my other job title which was Youth Care Worker.
Avi: So what does that entail? You mentioned you friend got bit by a crack head.
Sean: Oh that’s my new job, or the job I’ve been working for about a year and some change. They call him The Crackwolf and every full-moon he turns into a crack head.
Ben: We had this really good concept talking shit on our back porch about a wearbro.
Sean: Browolf is what Jon calls it. Where a guy gets bit by a — No, a wolf gets bit by a bro, so he turns into a bro every full moon. ROOOOOOOOOUUUUUU!
That shits all done. I’m in school for social work.
Ben: I’m in school for business management!
Eoin: We’ll get to you!
Avi: How’s that working out?
Ben: Well its…finish your story dude I’m sorry.
Sean: I no longer work with youth. We do a lot of benefits for the same organization. But now I just work at a straight up homeless shelter for single men and women. And I also do outreach there, I go out into the street with police and..Oh yea police, I work with cops.  Tru punx.
Eoin: Tru punx!
Sean: Really good cops to, I don’t really believe in ‘fuck the police’ anymore, even though a lot of them are unnecessarily abusing their power. You can’t marginalize an entire group of people just because of their profession.
Avi: So you just go out with cops and..
Sean: Well we have to clean up the streets first and get the dealers out, then when the dealers are done, we just try and connect the homeless individual to their appropriate service, like if they need mental help, or rehabilitation services or just shelter or job training. The job search is really fucking hard in Arizona right now, well not just in Arizona, everywhere. You need an address so they can mail you shit and you need a phone so they can contact you. And a shower so you can be clean for your interview and some decent clothes.
Eoin: Sounds like this influences a lot of what you write about.
Sean: Well in the same way everything I experience affects what I write about.
Eoin: Because you obviously encounter a lot of dark shit in the profession and your music is pretty terrifying at times. It sucked when kids started laughing during Human Kittens at Synergy!
Sean: Aw that’s ok, it was really interesting I mean…it’s never happened before.
Ben: Those kids were totally expecting Weird Al or something.
Sean: Yea. I liked those kids a lot. That’s the first time anyone’s laughed at that song though. Usually people laugh at the more obvious ones. I was just like “Wow, you guys think really weird shit is funny.”
Eoin: There’s been a reoccurring reference to aspiring to being a big ball of meat.
Sean: My friend Jon Martins, his rabbit Stormy was eaten by bees, meat bees.
Avi: Like torn apart alive?
Sean: Yea like…yea. But I just think the concept of death like, death is cool. Even when you’re dead, to be able to give yourself to something else, I just think that’s a really beautiful sentiment.
Avi: Told through meat bees.
Sean: Like when I die, it would be really cool if I could be eaten by something.
Eoin: That’s some real talk right there
Avi: On the topic of really deep shit, if there was an action figure of you guys, what would it’s kung fu power be?
Sean: Finger-banging or Face-punching action, for yourself. I used to have a problem with that when I would get really frustrated I would punch myself in the face really hard. That would be a cool action.
Avi: How about you Ben?
Ben: I don’t know, not shaving or something?
Sean: Beard having action! Smoking?
Sean: Could we have an anthropomorphic sidekick? Like Scrappy Doo?
Eoin: What the fuck is with you and Scrappy Doo!?
Sean: Like as a sidekick?
Ben: He would come in the expansion pack. He would come with the Astro-Van.
Eoin: I started drawing the web-comic with scrappy doo.
Sean: Oh yea, I believe in that for sure, I love that idea, the web-comic where Scrappy Doo is our roadie.
Eoin: He’s got a beard!
Sean: Fresh out’a rehab!
Eoin: And you guys get drunk so he’s gotta drive the van, but he doesn’t have thumbs! So, oh no! We’re off the road!
Ben: Roh No!
Sean: No Scrappy had a really annoying little voice.
Ben: Very nasally.
Sean: Yea…So what’s the next question?
Eoin: What do you do Ben?
Ben: What do I do…oh I don’t want to talk about what I do.
Eoin: ok good, we don’t want to listen.
Ben: I work at a strip club.
Sean: Life is a constant hustle for Ben Gallaty. He’s always on the move lookin’ for that scratch.
Ben: I actually just work a really crappy…well I like working in coffee.
Sean: they’re not gonna hear it dude, you hate your job.
Ben: I actually clean dead things off the road. I derive a great deal of joy and satisfaction from it, and I also realized a great deal of financial success when I turn that into jerky.
Ben: Pappy O’Gallaty’s Jerky Pieces!

Alright well let’s talk about the future, we are stoked as fuck to be working with you guys on the split 7 inch with The Gunshy. I understand this is going to be your first release that’s electric?
Sean: Nope not our first release.
Avi: Ok, well I’m a dick.
Eoin: Leave the fanboy shit to me Avi.
Avi: Are you afraid of offending the jaded punk rockers who used to be Against Me fans and joined up with you guys?
Ben: If we haven’t offended those fucking idiots yet, we will never will.
Eoin: You guys have a split with The Cobra Skulls coming out for the under the influence series?
Sean: Yea, that’ll probably be out in February. We probably don’t want put this interview out until then. Spoiler alert!
Ben: God damnit man! I keep on telling everyone about all this stuff were doing and I had no idea that we weren’t supposed to talk about it.
Sean: Well whatever.
Eoin: we’ll cut that part out.
Avi: No we won’t.
Sean: Were covering Neutral Milk Hotel, “Two Headed Boy,” And they are covering (Bob Dylan’s) Subterranean Homesick Blues.
Eoin: Fuck yea!
Sean: Pretty sweet eh? I fucking love The Cobra Skulls man.
Eoin: Is Heartalation and the other new one you have been playing on these two tours reserved for the next full length?
Sean: Yea.
Ben: “Glue the pieces to my car, crash it into a wall, I don’t want to feel at all.”
Sean: I just need to write some more songs like that and we’ll be done with the new album.
Avi: Eoin can already play (“Heartalation”), and it freaks me out.
Eoin: Freaks me out to.
Sean: What, two chords?
Vince: You guys wana talk about any other influences you have that people might not know about, like you have the Kilgore Trout tattoo.
Avi: Gangster rap?
Eoin: Brotha Lynch hung?
Vince: You were talking about Richard Pryor.
Ben: We haven’t listened to that yet, we just got a two disk set.
Sean: Oh yea! It’s gonna be fucking awesome to listen to on the drive home!
Sean: Yea, we really like Kurt Vonnegut books. He is probably my biggest influence ever. Season of da Siccness by Brotha Lynch Hung is an incredible album, from Sacramento actually. He raps about some pretty heavy shit, I urge everyone to check him out.
Ben: Eating babies.
Eoin: Doesn’t get much heavier.
Sean: The Frogs, we fucking LOVE the frogs. Todd Snyder is one of our new favs.
Ben: I really like Paul Simon stuff. Simon and Garfunkel.
Sean: Ditto. Graceland is so good to just be really sad in your apartment. Just like jerking off like one after the other in front of a computer screen, and then curling up into a fetal position and just sighing. Not crying though, it’s never too sad to cry. It can’t rain all the time.
Avi: The Crow?
Sean: Like when your laying down and your penis just really hurts and..
Ben: Oh yea, The Crow! That’s a big influence on us. That movies so good! “d-bos dead meat!”
Sean: Are you talking about Friday now? That has a good D-bo in it as well. The Crow and Friday are two VERY different movies.
Ben: The Big Lebowski, Mr. Show. Yea…
Avi: I think thats all we got
Ben: or wait no! One more thing! As far as really awesome Phoenix bands, that have been really awesome and have made it seem tangible —
The fact that you can actually play in a really good band, and you can go on tours, you can release CDs, and actually seeing people who did it and were nice enough to talk to you, and you know, them outside of being a musician but you also see their other half, which is a fucking awesome musician, and I’d say two of my fucking all time favorite Phoenix bands are Sweet Bleeders and Asleep In The Sea, which are now defunct, but were the most incredible pop band in the world.
Avi: You guys have a major DIY ethic, having worked with Plan-It-Ex Records and now Asian Man, but you guys have a lot of songs where you admit to actually giving a shit about money. Is you DIY ethic economically viable?
Sean: First of all, we aren’t stupid. Yea we are. We’re really stupid. But we aren’t impractical, my favorite word for it is pragmatic.
Avi: Like having an iPhone and owning Plan-It-Ex?
Sean: That’s a good inside joke kids. But it’s important to be sustainable in what you do. (Sean lights Ben a cigarette) obviously smoking cigarettes isn’t very smart. (erupts into a coughing fit)
Ben: I don’t think we have ever been in a situation where we realized ‘No kids are going to show up to the show, we’re not gonna sell any merch, let’s just play and get the fuck out of here.’
We try our hardest at every one. We might not play as good at every single show. But we are gonna try because we really love playing music and that’s what we are in it for. And the degree of success that we have, me and Sean are just flabbergasted every day. It’s a really amazing thing. I was broke when I left, but this tour would have covered the amount of money I would have made if i stayed in Arizona and worked. So it’s cool to go on tour and make money because then we can do it more often when I know it’s going to pay me as much as my actual job. Having the knowledge that we can do it and still get by is really great.
Avi: It seems like you make a lot of decisions that might not be the “business smart” decisions, like at The Fest we playing like 30 shows just walking around and on balconies and hotel-rooms, but ended up making hundreds of dollars in merch. Do you guys find yourself doing things that might not be entirely economically viable just to have a good time?
Sean: Oh yea, totally.
Eoin: You guys are too big of sweethearts to honestly care that much in the first place, it just all ends up working out.
Ben: We’ve done things for people like, for example, I won’t get into specifics but we played a benefit that was really far away from where we lived, and we were kind of expecting we would at least get compensated gas money.
Sean: And they were charging 10$ at the door
Ben: And you make a few decisions like that and it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We don’t make our decisions based solely on money, but we aren’t going to be taken advantage of. Like if we play a house show and it’s a packed house we’re gonna try to go around and talk to the kids and ask em if they can help out, because I think it’s really unfair to have someone drive hundreds of miles to you and all you have to do is cruise down the street and you get a free show. It should be a reciprocal thing.
Eoin: Synergy.
Ben: yea, there we go.
Sean: There’s a really nifty model for house shows that I’ve noticed a few houses doing and I think it would be really great if it became the house show standard. The Artist Area in Portland, Oregon, does this as well as The Hickey Underworld in Long Beach. And that is to charge a 5 or 6 dollar cover. Collect the money, pay the bands, and also take an overhead of what it costs to have a bunch of kids come in and fuck up your house. And don’t turn anyone away for not having money, but just see if they can stick around after the show and help clean up or try and bring some food or something.
Eoin: There’s a place near Blackburn street in Santa Cruz that does shows like that, like on the flyer it says “No one will turned away for lack of funds.”
Ben: Well that should be an unspoken thing. Crusty kids are fucking assholes. Fucking old misers.
Sean: Oh! I want to say one more thing! The perfect drink, The Josh Peterson. Get a 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew and drink it down to the label. Then you pour a half pint of gin into the bottle, turn it up-side-down, turn it back around, and drink it. Greatest drink of all time.
Ben: Don’t forget it’s the Josh Peterson, It’s not gonna taste good unless he is given credit for it.
Sean: It’s called the Josh Peterson for a fucking reason. I’m not gonna tell you what that is. Just remember, Josh Peterson.
Eoin: I look forward to having you make me drink one.
Sean: I’m gonna make you drink one and we are gonna trip out!
Avi: You guys ride bikes right?
Sean: Yea.
Eoin: What kind of bikes do you guys ride?
Sean: I ride a mountain bike.
Ben: I ride a fixed gear bike exclusively, anything else would just be a waste of time.
Eoin: Fuck you.
Ben: I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to be so in tune with the road. Fixed gears are the best and anyone who rides anything else is just ignorant, I think we can all agree with that.
Sean: And as one fixed gear kid told me when I was riding my mountain bike by the coffee shop, “Gears are for queers!”
Avi: Well we think you guys deserve some Silver Sprocket jackets.
Sean: Yes!
Eoin: The plan was– Your initiation was going to consist of putting the standup (bass) on the back of The Drum Bike, and having Sean sit very awkwardly and very uncomfortably on the metal bar at the edge of the drum platform, while Ben had to find some sort of footing between the edge and the drum, and we were going to parade you around town like circus freaks with our army of bicycle abominations, and all our comrades forcing you to play a mobile show on the streets of Sacramento. Like that U2 video, but better in every single way. And we would eventually end up at Space Park where you would be knighted with a Light Saber and then get your jackets. So just pretend that all happened. You’re gonna have to earn them when you come back to Sacramento and I am going to be so unsympathetic to how tired you are or where you have to be or who’s on their deathbed because it has to happen.

Left to right: Vince, Eoin, Sean, Ben, Avi; AKA: Enough facial hair for a shaven bunny to feel complete again.

P.S. Isn’t that pitcture up top of Sean and Ben in their sleeping cap’s just the cutest thing since Natalie Portman with all her hair chopped off? Don’t you want to just cuddle and snuggle with them forever? We’re making custom Andrew Jackson Jihad pillowcases so you can do just that! Details on this limited edition piece of bedding coming at you over the next week or two!

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